By Michael Perlman
Kweller Prep has not only been a major draw for tutoring and educational services, but a beacon in the name of the humanitarian spirit.
With a local center situated above the Midway Theatre at 108-22 Queens Boulevard on the second floor, owner and founder Frances Kweller of Forest Hills and general manager Ben Z. Davidov of Kew Gardens have tirelessly been making a difference for younger generations.
Remarkably, Kweller Prep teaches and mentors an average of over 1,500 students per year, which adds up to over 10,000 students in the past 15 years.
Kweller explained, “Kweller Prep has a very intentional, dedicated mission to help immigrant and minority children advance to higher education, including placement in highly competitive environments that build their careers. We are a targeted program that hires tutors who reflect the students we serve, placing them on track for success.”
As of July 2022, Kweller Prep was recognized by New York Family as among “The 7 best kids afterschool programs in Queens.”
Kweller is an attorney who came from an immigrant family, and graduated from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education and Hofstra University School of Law.
She is regarded as an education news expert, and is a regular when it comes to interviews on national TV.
Davidov, a native of Israel, achieved a BBA in entrepreneurial management from Baruch College in 2019. Backtracking, at Forest Hills High School, he pursued advanced courses, enabling him to complete the high school curriculum at the end of the 11th grade, and take AP and college classes as a 12th grader.
Among his leadership roles, he was president of Hillel at Baruch and also achieved the Henry Wollman Prizes award for outstanding contributions to student life.
Kweller originated a very successful organization as a result of her frustration with the school system.
Throughout high school and college, she felt that the system did not offer her enough beneficial information or guidance.
Davidov said, “Frances launched Kweller Prep to be a community resource and provide insight into the application and testing process, along with teaching students test-taking skills that they would need for their academic careers.”
He proudly joined the Kweller Prep team in 2014 after experiencing the same frustrations.
“Being an immigrant, I had a hard time navigating the NYC Department of Education system, and I learned as much as possible from my mentor, Frances Kweller, so I could also serve as a resource to our community,” he said.
Today, they are both members of the National Association for College Counseling.
In 2015, Kweller Prep was government certified as a 100 percent Women-owned Business Enterprise in NYC and NYS.
Throughout many years, Kweller Prep established community partnerships with Place NYC and the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, in addition to building relationships with diverse educational institutions.
They include Stuyvesant High School and its PTA, Townsend Harris High School and its PTA, Forest Hills High School and its PTA, Brooklyn Tech High School, Bronx High School of Science, York High School, Richmond Hill High School, Arts and Business High School, Academy of Finance and Enterprise, and the First in Family Fund, which is Kweller Prep’s non-profit.
The Kweller Prep approach varies from alternate supplemental educational programs, as it specializes in preparations for competitive junior high schools, high schools, colleges and graduate schools.
Classes are limited to 10 students and are offered in person and via Zoom.
Besides focusing on minority students, Davidov explained, “We resort to customizing groups and ensure that each student leaves our center more prepared for the exam. Our strategy is to over-prepare and offer a bunch of resources, so there are no surprises, come the day of the exam.”
Kweller continued, “We meet with most of our families before the start of a course, to understand the needs of every single student.”
Kweller, Davidov and their colleagues are recognized for their ability to identify early talent and focus on holistic learning approaches.
“Families seek us with hopes that their child will one day attend a top tier school or an Ivy League school. We offer support from the 3rd to 12th grade to assist students every step of the way. We guide students through what is needed each year, in order for them to achieve the results that they envisioned,” Kweller said.
Davidov added, “Families begin planning for Ivy Leagues as early as the 6th grade, and often have meetings with management to create a great college application. At the start of 12th grade, Kweller Prep offers a college application service that assists from A-Z in preparing applications for universities nationwide.”
One may wonder about a typical day at Kweller Prep, which is not so typical after all.
After a full-time security guard opens, 80 students per session attend their daily or weekly class.
“Students come to their assigned classroom, where they generally receive 4 hours of instruction. They are provided with an abundance of resources relating to their exam and the steps that follow, after completing our program,” Davidov said.
“Students receive our tests, homework packets, textbooks, and related materials, as well as snacks to keep them engaged. We order breakfast, lunch, and dinner depending on the session, and order all food from local small businesses to support our surrounding community.”
Students take exams at Kweller Prep every four weeks during the school year, which pertain to weekend fall and spring classes, and each Monday during summer camp classes.
“Once their session is complete, they are escorted by staff and security, and staff meet with parents to let them know about their child’s progress, which is followed by emailing progress reports,” said Kweller.
The management and administrative staff hold daily meetings with parents and families to customize courses, devoted to each student’s needs.
For Kweller and Davidov, running Kweller Prep is a gift.
In a joint statement, they explained that the benefit includes having 10 students or less per class, providing uniforms, materials, syllabi and a safe space to work.
“We collect some of the brightest minds in NYC who aspire to bigger and better achievements. The friendships created among staff lead to the creation of study groups, new business ventures and access to major-specific opportunities outside of working at the center. We mentor all staff members and help them pursue other opportunities outside Kweller Prep, as we are firm believers in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship.”
Kweller explained their goals: “Our short-term goal is to help every student that comes to our center achieve their academic goal. Our long-term goals are in the works, and we hope to be sharing good news soon. We foresee in the future that we will be working towards creating a school for students to get ahead of the NYC DOE curriculum, and be able to years ahead upon entering high school and college.”
In the spring, not long after the community’s beloved Chinese food delivery worker and longtime Forest Hills personality Zhiwen Yan was killed, Kweller leaped forward.
She launched a GoFundMe via her First in Family Fund, Inc. non-profit, to support his three children.
Miraculously, over $100,000 was raised within a 24-hour period, which increased to $154,160. It attracted a total of 2,600+ donors.
Exhibiting a good heart for students, parents, staff and the community at large makes Kweller and Davidov true humanitarians, and a mobilizing force in the name of innovative education.